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Edward F. Markquart

Dialogue Sermon on Soil and Water

Stewardship     Gen. 1:26-31

Dave Today, Pastor Markquart and I have a dialogue sermon.  In our dialogue sermon, we try to reconstruct the best parts of our conversation that we had with each other on the text or theme for the day.  We try to recreate our conversation from the office in the pulpit. This might not sound like a sermon to you, but we invite you to listen in on our discussion and understand what we are trying to say. … I think that I started the conversation last Tuesday when I asked, “Edward, when you think of the word, stewardship, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?”

Ed  Bucks. 

Dave You mean like dollars, money in the wallet?

Ed  I know that when I hear the word, stewardship, I should be thinking about the care of the land, water, air and natural resources.  But to be honest, I have been a pastor for such a long time, that when I think of the word, stewardship, I think of bucks…money.  Today is Stewardship Sunday; that is, it is Money Sunday.  I think that most of the laity think of money as well.  How about you?  When you hear the word, stewardship, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Dave Care.  Care of the good gifts that God has given to us.  To care for the land and all the things that the good land has to offer to us.  To care for ourselves, for our bodies and our personalities.  I think of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where God created both man and woman and then God said that they were to have dominion over it all, to be fruitful and multiply.  What God was really saying was for us humans to take care of the good things that God has given us.  I think of caretaker. 

Ed  With that answer, it seems that you have been to seminary. I don’t think that the average, run of the mill, member of our church thinks of all that stuff.  When they hear the word, stewardship, the regular members think of money given to the church.  The preacher may initially talk about Adam and Eve and care taking of the earth, but finally at the end of the sermon, the preacher will get around to money.

Dave In some ways you are right, most members think that on Stewardship Sunday, they will hear about money.

Ed  The other day when we were talking, you told a good story that I liked, the one about a bishop.  Would you tell it again?

Dave There was a bishop who used to visit all the churches in his diocese once a year and preached a sermon in that church. It happened to be Thanksgiving time when the bishop visited a large congregation that was located in a plantation area.  Beautiful plantations were everywhere.  The theme of his sermon was that God owns everything and we Christians are caretakers, but we don’t own anything.  Everything is a gift from God’s good hand.  Well, the host for the bishop that Thanksgiving Day was the biggest plantation owner of the area who later had the bishop over for a luscious, sumptuous lunch.  After the filling lunch, owner took the bishop out to show him this glorious plantation and he finally said to the bishop.  “Bishop, I didn’t especially appreciate your sermon.  Do you mean to tell me that I don’t own all this land?  The bishop replied:  “Ask me that same question a one hundred years from now.”

Ed  I love that story.  The owner won’t be around in a hundred years.  Of course, he doesn’t own the land.

Dave That’s the point.

Ed  That story reminds me of the old one about Billy Graham.  Knowing that many people secretly want to take their material possessions with them to heaven, Billy Graham asked:  “Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Hall trailer?  Of course not.  You can’t take it with you.”

Dave There are a lot of facets of stewardship that we can talk about.  What is one facet of stewardship that you want to talk about?

Ed  I am from Jackson, Minnesota and  from some of the best farmland in America, with its thick, deep, rich loam soil.  It is corn country, and we need to take care of the best soil in the world.  I also have a pastor friend who works in Davenport, Iowa, that looks out over the Mississippi River.  We visited him recently and saw enormous barges coming through the locks, and these enormous barges were filled with fertilizer.  Fifteen of them, three abreast, in five rows.  These barges were headed for Minnesota, so the fertilizer could be put on that rich farmland because the farmland is no longer producing like in did in the past.  Related to this, I was at Holden Village this past summer and a soils engineer said that the Minnesota soil was getting worn out and was being depleted by a half an inch every ten years.  The land itself was being worn out, like an old blanket or worn out like an old shirt.  Several people at Holden Village didn’t like what the soils engineer was saying. When I think about care taking, I think about caring for the earth itself and the rich fertile soil.  How about you Dave?  When you think of care taking, what do you think of?

Dave For me with my northwestern roots, I think of water.  We have plenty of water here and I am aware that water tables are declining in other parts of the United States.  I have some statistics about water.  It is estimated that 25,000 people die each day because of lack of water.

Ed  25,000 a day die from lack of water?

Dave Yes, and 80% of all disease in Third World countries is due to the lack of good drinking water.

Ed  Impure water is more prevalent than lack of food?

Dave Yes.  Here’s one you will like, Ed.  How much water do you think you use a day?

Ed  It is a wild guess. Ten gallons a day?

Dave Come on, Edward.  A lot more than that.  How much water does an average American use each day?

Ed  One hundred gallons?

Dave An average American uses 1800 gallons per day, including personal use, agricultural use and industrial use.

Ed  That seems impossible.

Dave How much water does an average person consume in under developed countries?

Ed  How much?

Dave Twelve gallons. 

Ed  Unbelievable.

Dave How much water does an average American use per day, for personal consumption?

Ed  Don’t know.

Dave 160 gallons.  Did you take a shower today?

Ed  Yes.

Dave How long was it?

Ed  Two or three minutes.

Dave That’s about five gallons of water a minute or about fifteen gallons. How much water do you use washing clothes?

Ed  I am not sure.  I don’t know.

Dave .  Twenty to thirty gallons.  Do shave and leave the water running?

Ed  Yes

Dave That’s three gallons.  Do you flush the toilet?

Ed  Yes

Dave That’s three gallons a flush.  Do you like eggs?

Ed  Why the question about eggs?

Dave How many gallons does it take to get one egg?

Ed  I have no idea.

Dave Forty gallons.

Ed  I don’t believe it.  Forty gallons of water for one egg?

Dave Do you like corn?

Ed  Yes

Dave Eighty gallons of water to grown one ear of corn.  These are all proven statistics.

Ed  They are hard to believe.

Dave Do you like bread?

Ed  Yes

Dave One hundred and fifty gallons of water to make one loaf of bread, to grow all the grain that it take to make one loaf of bread. 

Ed  OK, I am getting the drift.

Dave How much water does it take to make one gallon of whiskey?

Ed  No clue.

Dave Two hundred and thirty gallons.

Ed  That’s a lot of water for a drink of booze.

Dave Not many people comprehend how much water we use for the big three:  industrial, agricultural, and personal use.  And there are so many direct problems associated with water such as lakes dying because of acid rain and tall smoke stacks like Arseco in Tacoma causing 48% of acid rain on Mount Rainer.  Our own Commencement Bay is one of the ten most polluted bays in the United States.  The list goes on and on.

Ed  I have read that the population living at the mouth of the Mississippi River is affected with unusually high rates of cancer;  that people living in the Mississippi delta region have had cancerous pesticides seeping into their water and soils, and now there is a higher rate of cancer in the population of New Orleans.

Dave I just had a disgusting thought.

Ed  What is that?

Dave It is an analogy.  The midsection of the United States is like a giant kidney, and the land in the Midwest gets all the pesticides and fertilizers dumped on it, and then the rains wash those pesticides and fertilizers into the mighty rivers such as the Missouri, the Ohio and the Mississippi, and the Mississippi comes down like a big urethra tube and urinates into the Gulf of Mexico.

Ed  That is kind of disgusting, but I can see the Mississippi urinating all those pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico.  But I want to change the subject a bit.  I was down at the Pacific Science Center the other day, and they had a computer with wonderful buttons, and this one button was entitled “Renewable Energy Resources.”  This computer worked with a model that one year represents a billion years.  365 days represents 365 billion years.

Dave One year represents a billion years?  I got it. 

Ed  So, in this time scale, it took six months to make all the natural resources of this earth.  That’s 180 billion years, half of known time.  We get into the last part of December, and humankind is made, man and woman, and we humans begin our rapid consumption of the natural resources that took 180 billion years to make.  In this model, all the natural gas will be gone in four seconds. All the oil will be gone in eight seconds.  In other words, it took six months of time to make oil and natural gas, but in four seconds, the gas is gone and in eight seconds, the oil is gone.

Dave At the present rate of human consumption?

Ed  Yes, and so this computer model is challenging us human beings to conserve the delicate eco-system that God has given to us.

Dave This is all interesting but so what?  The problems are massive.  What am I supposed to do?  Do I take two aspirin and hope that the headache goes away by morning? Do we just ignore it and go on living life and forget about all of this blather?

Ed  It seems to me that there is a growing Christian awareness that we all need to take care of this fragile eco-system called Earth.  I am now believing that the Earth is the living center of the universe; much as the primitive scientists believed in ancient days. Then Galileo came along and said the Earth is no longer the geographic center of the universe; he was persecuted for his scientific conclusions but he was right.  Now we know that the planet Earth is no longer the geographic center of the universe, but our Earth appears be the living center of the universe.  There is no known life anywhere in the universe except here, and therefore it is our deep spiritual calling to take good care of this sacred planet called Earth where life lives.  We are called by God to take special care of our land, water, and air.

Dave That certain is true for my family and me.

Ed  It certainly is true of us.  When my wife was pregnant and the sprayers came with their trucks to spray our neighborhoods, we left town on that day.  We and others raised a fuss about the city doing this.  Also, nobody wants to buy a home that has used formaldehyde as insulation.  There is a growing awareness of the importance of cleaning up everything on Earth, including our lakes and rivers and streams and air and Puget Sound itself.

Dave I think there is something else what is helping.  The cost of gasoline and oil and fuel of every kind.  It is getting much more expensive and the high costs of energy I think will help reduce our reliance on those natural resources.  We are lowering our thermostats in our homes; we are using automobiles that get higher gas mileage; the gas guzzlers are too expensive.  We are eating food that has not been touched by pesticides.  I think our fundamental life styles are being challenged and changed.

Ed  Do you think we will voluntarily change our life styles based on the market place  or do we need to be forced into cooperation and compliance by government regulation?

Dave Because of original sin, I think we humans want to escape any changes that may be  helpful to us.  I think both, that a combination of high costs of energy in the marketplace and government regulations will be needed in the future.

Ed  For me, it is like a diabetic discovering that he/she is a diabetic.  They then realize that they will and must be taking insulin the rest of their lives. That’s just the way it is.  There is no choice for a diabetic but to take insulin and change the lifestyle and avoid sugars.  So it is with the earth and care of the earth.  There is a new awareness that we as human beings do not really have a choice:  we must care for the earth and its natural resources or we will die.  That is just the way it is.

Dave Do you remember the first question we asked in the study the other day?

Ed  No.

Dave I asked you, “What is the first thing that you think of when you hear the word, stewardship?”

Ed  I said Bucks.  Money.  Cash.

Dave What did you say a stewardship sermon will always finally get around to?

Ed  Bucks.  Money. Cash. 

Dave  Yes, and here we are at the end of the sermon.  It is time to talk about the topic that everyone thought we were going to talk about.

Ed  Amen.  Dave Amen.

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